Outdoor Moments: Magazine ad sparks fair-chase conversation

Alan Charles
Friday, May 31, 2019
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Ialmost choked when I saw the ad in the magazine. It was a fullpage, four-color ad, costing probably $1,200 - $2,000, considering the magazine where it appeared.

“HUNT THE XXX RANCH IN TEXAS,” the headline shouted, while underneath, in smaller text, the tag line read “30,000 Acres of Fair Chase Hunting in Texas.”

Centered in the ad was a photo of a man wearing a pilot’s helmet equipped with night vision goggles, propping up the head of a large hog with its mouth opened to display big tusks. Beside that photo was another picture of the hog, with a semiautomatic rifle equipped with a large capacity magazine, night vision scope, and silencer leaned against its shoulder.

The ad continued: “HOG HUNTING IN TEXAS. Suit up in night vision goggles to hunt trophy Texas pigs under the cover of darkness with thermal scopes and silencerequipped rifles. Six guaranteed hours of hunting per night with no trophy fees. Safe guides. Safe equipment. Safe hunting. $1,000/hunt/ person for all-inclusive overnight stay (1 day).”

Does this sound like any sort of “fair chase” hunting? Now, let me first explain that throughout much of the nation, feral hogs are causing massive damage to agricultural crops, destroying critical wildlife habitat, and consuming the eggs and poults of many types of groundnesting birds. Feral pigs typically hide in dense cover during the day and forage mostly at night. They also reproduce rapidly, often producing at least three large litters a year.

In response, state fish and game agencies have adopted very liberal regulations regarding how hunters may hunt feral hogs, often authorizing night hunting, hunting from airplanes or vehicles, allowing the use of bait, and providing few restrictions on firearms that may be used.

So my angst with the magazine ad has little to do with what is being offered, but rather with the use of the words “fair chase” in conjunction with the type of hunting that is being advertised. Hunting feral pigs at night with night vision goggles and silencers from an airplane may well be legal, and even be effective as a way to kill a wild pig. But I question whether or not it can honestly be marketed as any sort of “fair chase” hunt.

Because I am a writer and a communicator, words matter. I think, for all of us, hunters and nonhunters, the words we use in referring to hunting activities should have meaning. Many hunting regulations adopted by state legislatures and state fish and game agencies have a foundation based on what is considered fair chase hunting.

Authorized hunting hours for most types of big game animals typically begin a half hour before sunrise and end a half hour after sunset, primarily because those animals are more vulnerable during hours of darkness. Hunters are not allowed to use vehicles to chase, harass or herd game birds and animals, and hunters not certified as disabled may not shoot game birds or animals from a motor vehicle, because those activities are not deemed “fair chase.”

So perhaps, if it is necessary to adopt liberal regulations to accommodate specialized control hunting or killing of certain animals, we should clearly communicate that, rather than lumping those activities into other types of hunting which better represent fair chase hunting that may be more accepted and understood by nonhunters.

I can’t blame the enterprising person who is attempting to financially profit from the liberal hunting regulations authorized to kill feral pigs. Truth is, actual control of the pig population would probably be better accomplished by targeting the prolific sows. But then, a hunter in full tactical gear posing with a “trophy” sow or piglet might not make a great ad photo.

( Alan Charles lives and writes in the Pine Hills.)